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Football teammates square off in basketball season

The Ethan Rustlers, front, and Bridgewater-Emery Huskies, back, meet during a timeout in the fourth quarter of a high school boys’ basketball game Monday night at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Athletes from the schools are teammates during football season. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

Athletes from Bridgewater-Emery and Ethan were working together for victory on the gridiron in November. Two months later, they are competing against each other on the basketball court.

“It’s a lot of fun, but also you want it to be really competitive because we played together on a state championship team,” Bridgewater-Emery junior guard Jonah Bailey said.

During football season, the athletes worked together to win a Class 9AA state championship for Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, a four-year cooperative. It was the Seahawks’ third state football title in four years under head coach Jeff VanLeur.

Monday, the teams found themselves conversing before the boys’ basketball game at the Corn Palace in Mitchell in their first game against one another this season. Ethan won the contest 66-56.

“Before the game, you’re joking around with them and what not, but then it gets serious and you look past that,” said Ethan senior forward Tyler Myers, who had eight rebounds in Monday’s game. “You can’t joke around when you’re playing against them.”

Bailey said it’s challenging to work alongside kids from another town during one season and compete against them in the next.

“We always root for Ethan because they are our teammates in the fall,” he said. “If we’re not against them, we should be cheering for them.”

The Rustlers played their way into this week’s rankings as the fifth-ranked team. Ethan (5-1) dropped its season opener to Hanson, which is receiving votes in the poll, and has won five straight games. Its biggest win came in a 66-62 upset victory over then-No. 1 James Valley Christian Jan. 3.

Myers said his team has focused hard to break its way into the rankings.

“We get along with our football teammates, but we are focused on us now,” he said. “We have to be close as a team and stick together to be the best we can be.”

In Monday’s contest, Ethan had three players score in double figures. Camden Myers had a game-high 18 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double, Blake Bartscher recorded 15 points, six rebounds and six assists and Jace Connor added 14 points. The Rustlers were 19-of-28 for 68 percent from the line, 23-of-52 from the field and had 35 team rebounds and 12 turnovers.

The Huskies were led by Jerret Weber with 17 points and six rebounds, while Wade Miller added 14 points. Bridgewater-Emery was 5-of-7 for 71 percent from the line, 24-of-63 for 38 percent from the floor and had 25 team rebounds and seven turnovers.

Bridgewater-Emery (2-8) is looking to get back to winning after dropping its last four games. The Huskies travel to play Menno Friday, while Ethan hosts Canistota Friday.